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SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service crossed a significant milestone after the company revealed that Starlink now has more than a million active subscribers. SpaceX opened the service to the public in 2020 and allowed orders a couple of months later in 2021. Since then, the company has been rapidly building its constellation by conducting regular launches of the Falcon 9 rocket. At the same time, it has also upgraded its satellites, which has resulted in the Falcon 9 being able to launch lesser satellites than it previously could during the early days of the launch. Today's news comes after a tumultuous year for Starlink that saw user speeds slow down and controversy around converge for Ukraine.
Starlink Adds 300,000 New Subscribers In Just Two Months
At the start of this year, or in February, Starlink had 250,000 subscribers and throughout 2022, this figure has been growing. The last update for the subscriber count, before today's announcement, came from SpaceX's vice president of commercial sales, Mr. Jonathan Hofeller. Mr. Hofeller revealed at an event in September that his company was now providing service to 700,000 subscribers then, with significant price reductions in countries such as Brazil inducing more people to sign up for the satellite internet service.
Since then, or exactly three months later, the number of Starlink's active subscribers has now crossed 1 million. This comes straight from SpaceX, who shared the details on its Twitter page along with a short video clip. Setting up a satellite constellation requires significant investment, which includes launch costs and those for setting up production machines to manufacture the equipment. These are supplemented by the costs of operating the network itself, and as a whole, all these are difficult obstacles to overcome, as SpaceX's chief Mr. Elon Musk has shared on multiple occasions.
These costs are still the beginning for SpaceX, as it has only launched a little over 3,000 satellites for a constellation that aims to put tens of thousands of these into orbit. So far, the next constellation stage, which will include second-generation satellites, will be launched through SpaceX's Starship rocket.
However, the jury is still out on this, with some whispers suggesting that SpaceX might configure the second-generation spacecraft to launch with the Falcon 9 instead. The Falcon 9 is the most reliable rocket ever launched in human history. SpaceX's latest launch, which saw it put another 54 satellites into orbit, was done through a booster that has now flown a remarkable 15 times.
Initially, SpaceX had planned to use only the Falcon 9 for the Gen2 satellites, but it changed its plans earlier this year when it submitted a modification request to the FCC. This request was heavily criticized by the company's competitors, who equated it with being an entirely new application in itself. SpaceX defended the move by asserting that the plans were an either/or scenario, and then later on decided to stick solely to Starship to launch the new spacecraft.
Starship is currently in development in Boca Chica, Texas - with teams rushing to conduct a crucial orbital test flight that will demonstrate the rocket's operational capability. However, this flight might not take place until the end of the first quarter of 2023, particularly since Starship will also have to be human rated early on due to its central role in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Artemis program. A customized variant of the rocket stage will land the first astronauts on the Moon this millennia, and NASA hopes that the first lunar landing test flight will take place in 2023.